Garden Tips, Tools & Advice
Tools & Resources
by the Staff at Seeds of Change
Seed saving generally refers to the practice of growing a plant to full maturity and harvesting the seeds produced to plant again the next season. Farmers and Gardeners have been saving their own seeds since the dawn of agriculture. It is only over the course of the past century that saving seed has become a lost art. When you save seeds you are connecting to an ancient rhythm developed between humans and plants that is essential for preserving biodiversity and enhancing food security.
Getting started is easy, and once you have the hang of it you can delve into the fascinating world of plant reproduction and genetics to advance your skills, make better selections, and perhaps even breed your very own new variety.
Every time you grow a seed crop, it will be affected in sometimes intentional, but often imperceptible ways by the growing conditions of that particular season. If, for example, only a few of your tomato plants survive a disease, seed saved from the surviving plants may have a genetic trait that helps them resist that disease. Gardeners who save their own seeds are helping their favorite varieties adapt to their specific garden climate.
The easiest crops for beginning seed savers to start working with are tomatoes (Lycopersicon lycopersicum), common beans (Phaseolus vulgaris), and peas (Pisum sativum). All of these crops are self-pollinating, inbreeding plants, so do not need to be isolated from other varieties to save seeds that will come true-to-type. The exception is potato-leaved tomato varieties (like Brandywine) and current tomatoes (L. pimpinellifolium) which will cross pollinate.
Begin to familiarize yourself with the Latin names (written in italics above) for different crop species. Most species (except the three mentioned above) will cross pollinate via wind or insects between varieties of their same species, and will need to be grown at a distance from each other to keep each seed variety true. This is called isolation distance and ranges from 25 feet to over a mile or more. In most backyard gardens this usually means you can only grow one variety of a cross-pollinating species each year.
Each species has different requirements for successful seed saving. We recommend the book Seed to Seed, by Suzanne Ashworth, which provides comprehensive details and instructions for saving seed from most common species.
Another good resource is the website of the Organic Seed Alliance, where you can download the free publication called: A Seed Saving Guide for Farmers and Gardeners:
How to save bean and pea seed (dry seed):
How to save Tomato seed (wet seed):
Dark Star Zucchini
Tiger's Eye Mix Sunflower
Italian Flat Leaf Parsley
Quinoa, Brown & Red Rice
Brown Basmati Rice
Brown & Red Rice
Quinoa & Brown Rice